How to Structure Your CV When You’ve Taken a Break From Your Career

March 28th 2018  By: Nikki Vivian

When you’ve been out of the job market for a while, or if you’re changing careers, your most recent employment may not be your most relevant and it might not be that recent. A traditional chronological CV will make these two things glaringly obvious, but thankfully, it’s not the only type of CV and certainly not what I would recommend in this situation.

5 second rule

5 seconds, 7 seconds, the statistic varies slightly, but whatever it is, you have literally seconds to impress before your CV is discarded. A busy recruiter will take one look at your CV and if you aren’t demonstrating what they are looking for, you’re CV is a ball in the bin my friend. Now, don’t worry, that won’t happen to you because I’m going to tell you how to hit the recruiter with exactly what they are looking for from the off, to ensure they keep on reading.

Personal profile

This is essential as far as I’m concerned. It’s your sales pitch, your story in three or four lines, your hook to reel the reader in. An effective profile needs to start with who you are, your most sort after skills and experience and what it is you’re looking to do. Keep it short and sweet and make sure it is tailored to the position you’re applying for. There is no point highlighting your excellent communication skills here if you’re applying for a lone working role. Keep it relevant and concise.

It’s not all about paid employment

Having your professional experience at the top of your CV isn’t going to benefit you if you haven’t worked for a while or if you’re looking to do something that isn’t inline with the path you’ve followed previously. That’s why I recommend a skills section to go directly below the profile before you mention employment. The skills section allows you totally tailor your CV to a role. You can pull out all of the skills you think the employer is looking for and evidence them in the skills section. Take each skill as a header and provide an example of how you have demonstrated each skill.

The best thing about this section is you can include skills and experience from anywhere at any time. It doesn’t matter whether it was voluntary work, paid employment, something you organised in your personal life or a hobby. If you can use it to highlight a skill you have, anything goes in this section.

You’ve already got them hooked

Now you’ve got a hard-hitting skills section, you’ve hooked the reader in before they’ve arrived at your professional experience section, which comes next. Your professional experience still needs to be in reverse chronological order, but if your first entry isn’t hugely relevant, or was a long time ago, the reader already knows you have what they are looking for, so when and how you got there is less important.


Always include education and it doesn’t just have to be degrees and diplomas. Have you done any professional development? Maybe you’ve taken a course while you haven’t been working? If it’s relevant to what you’re applying for, put it in. It doesn’t have to have led to an accreditation to be on your CV.


This is one of those sections I can take or leave, usually leave because often it doesn’t add any value and takes up valuable space. However, if you don’t have a great deal of professional experience but you have plenty of examples of things like leadership, development, passion for causes and accomplishments in sports, add that all here.

Your ticket to the future

So, there you have it. A great CV that focuses on your skills and experience rather than your most recent professional experience. Now you have the template for all future CVs, you just need to make sure you update the skills section and professional profile to reflect the role you’re applying for. Good luck (not that you’ll need it).

If you’d like help with your CV, I offer a CV writing service, or you can join the conversation on Facebook.